by Graham S. Parker
Colonie, New York
November 7, 2007
A five-year fight over excessive noise has escalated with one side joining a national organization seeking to curb excessive noise and a recent posting on Youtube.com.
Mo Hannah and Joe Lombardo live on Purtell Avenue behind The Roman Pub that fronts Troy Schenectady Road. The couple contend that for five years they have been living with excessive noise from the pub emanating from its back porch, where patrons talk loudly and smoke cigarettes as the bar’s jukebox blares.
After nearly 50 complaints to police in those five years, the couple has joined Noise Free America, a group seeking more stringent noise ordinances to cut down on noise caused by cars, motorcycles, leaf blowers and sometimes bars, to help put an end to it.
All they want is for The Roman Pub Manager Lillian Marks to keep the back door closed and keep the noise down. This is a demand that Hannah and Lombardo say has fallen on deaf ears.
“Here I am being exposed to this noise, keeping me awake, keeping my children awake, and it would probably go away if the bar keeps its doors closed,” said Hannah.
The couple has three children ages 13, 15 and 17.
Their recent attempt to shush the bar includes posting video of nighttime chatter from the back porch of the bar on Youtube.com as well as posting police records of arrests and complaints made from 2002 to recently about loud or unruly characters at the Roman Pub.
According to Lombardo, they have pleaded with town officials and police to do something, but town officials have been unresponsive, and police say the same thing every time, “their hands are tied,” he said.
“We do everything we can to help them,” said Colonie Police Chief Steven Heider.
For years, the night shift has responded to the couple’s complaints, and on several occasions stood at the property line between the structures, decibel meter in hand, and every time the readings come in below Colonie’s noise ordinance, Heider said.
The town’s noise ordinance prohibits sound measured 20 feet from the property line above 75 decibels — the equivalent of loud singing from 3 feet away — between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.
“The problem is, and it’s a problem with noise ordinances, that there is a lot of noise that’s aggravating but not criminal,” Heider said.
When tested, police recorded the ambient noise of Troy-Schenectady in the vicinity of Purtell Avenue and The Roman Pub at 68 decibels.
“I don’t know what to do. This place has got to be 100 years old, and we’ve never had other complaints,” said Marks, pub manager. “It’s a jukebox, that’s all we have other than a dart board.”
Marks agreed that the door is the issue. Sometimes smokers leave it open and the jukebox that is notoriously loud, programmed for 80 decibels inside, is heard from the rear of Hannah and Lombardo’s property.
To address the recent string of complaints that began last summer, Marks said she had the company that the pub contracts with for the jukebox, come in and program it so it can’t exceed 80 decibels, she said.
“People put money in to hear songs, and we turn the juke box way down,” she said.
Heider said that Marks has been cooperative with police and often, when asked, the music is turned down and the doors are closed, he said.
Marks feels that the constant complaints by Lombardo and Hannah are harassment as calls are nearly nightly, and on several occasions, employees, including her granddaughter, are accosted by the couple, she said.
However, Lombardo and Hannah contend that they personally see to the door being closed when the noise is too much.
The problem would be solved if the pub would just close its door and keep watch of its patrons, said Hannah. It’s is not a matter of who was here first, she said. It’s just neighborly.
“We knew the bar was there. We certainly didn’t know they would play their music until 2 or 3 a.m.,” she said.
Among the 34 complaints listed on the couple’s Noise Free Colonie Web site, most of them are their own, she said. Colonie police also confirmed that not many complaints have come from other neighbors. However, none live as close as Hannah and Lombardo do.
Across Colonie, certain locations and residential development close to existing commercial property, has raised questions as to the effectiveness of the town’s noise ordinance as complaints continue to come in, said Heider. It has also raised questions as to whether or not the law can be changed, he said. He said the town has plans to look over the law.
Supervisor Mary Brizzell confirmed that she has received e-mails from Hannah and Lombardo, but has not spoken with them personally.
The issue is a classic example of commercial properties abutting residential properties, Brizzell said. And it has raised questions of whether or not the 75 decibel mark is enough and if there should, or could, be more done. There is talk of revisiting the nearly five-year-old ordinance soon, she said.